R3view: Brave

Directors:
Mark Andrews, Brenda Chapman, Steve Purcell
Screenplay:
Mark Andrews, Steve Purcell, Brenda Chapman, Irene Mecchi
Story:
Brenda Chapman
Producers:
Katherine Sarafian
Starring [voices]:
Kelly Macdonald, Billy Connolly, Emma Thompson, Julie Walters, Robbie Coltrane, Kevin McKidd, Craig Ferguson
MPAA Rating:
PG
Running time:
100 min


Synopsis:
Merida is a skilled archer and impetuous daughter of King Fergus (Billy Connolly) and Queen Elinor (Emma Thompson). Determined to carve her own path in life, Merida defies an age-old custom sacred to the uproarious lords of the land: massive Lord MacGuffin (Kevin McKidd), surly Lord Macintosh (Craig Ferguson) and cantankerous Lord Dingwall (Robbie Coltrane). Merida’s actions inadvertently unleash chaos and fury in the kingdom, and when she turns to an eccentric old Witch (Julie Walters) for help, she is granted an ill-fated wish. The ensuing peril forces Merida to discover the meaning of true bravery in order to undo a beastly curse before it is too late.

Read all of our reviews below…

Kurt:

Wisely, Pixar’s first “Princess” movie, something their parent company has turned into a kind of synergistic cross-promotional branding thing, features a fiery Scottish lass who neither wants to be a princess nor desires marriage. In fact the dress of the princess here acts as an actual physical constraint bringing the metaphor to cinematic proportions. Much like The Incredibles, WallE and Ratatouille are most definitely ABOUT something first and foremost (rather than as a vehicle for pop songs and plush toys) and perhaps accidently, perhaps intentionally, end up going against the grain (or at least the cute, sell, brand philosophy) of the parent company. But I digress. Brave sets its focus on the give and take of communication between mothers and daughters, to the exclusion of all the boys in the household which are more or less buffoons to be put in place by the woman-folk – This is, well, brave for an animted four-quadrant picture. The original title, “The Bear and The Bow,” is a more apt, if less snappy, title for a film that sees mom turned into the very thing that the family rails against. Now rendered mute, she can have a proper chance at bonafide communication with her daughter. When Merida chops the family portrait in half and Queen Elinor reacts by throws her bow, the symbol of both her passion and her break with tradition, not to mention the link with her doting dad, into the fireplace, this is a great rift that threatens the entire family unit. Merida is not around to see her mother weep as the adult in the feud her mother unwisely lost control. This is the central truth of Brave, that we tend to talk a lot – at – each other but never achieve understanding. This is a complex and nuanced thing for an animated feature to dwell on in this fashion.

Now Brave is not exactly the film I wanted. I would have preferred things if Pixar shot its arrows not after Disney targets but rather after its leader John Lasseter’s hero and idol, Hayao Miyazaki and the Japanese Studio Ghibli. At times Brave seems to be aiming for the area that studio showed mastery with in its girl-hero epics Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind and Spirited Away. The wicked witch in Brave bears (see what I did there?) strong resemblance to a certain ‘mistress of the bathhouse’ in the latter, but credit Pixar for eschewing a villain as the cause, but rather the heroine’s childishness (also in Spirited Away.) America being America, it has to be about how the individual learns from making large blunders instead of an initially well rounded girl finding her way in the world with strong consideration of family and responsibility. But I won’t fault cultural differences or story telling, here, it is that Brave‘s only weakness is that it goes for goofy (slapstick), or convenient plotting, when it should go for the grandiosity of its setting and rich highland history. But Pixar goes its own way on these things, and that the film is entirely in service of the royal-smack down between mom and daughter, over checking off boxes on a cultural list, is a minor gripe. The scene where Queen Elinor watches Merida come around to the Queen’s way (and the Queen’s words) but on her daughters terms and conditions made me consider that the reason for the 3D was not so much stereoscopic enhancement, but that those big black glasses hides the tears of so many parents, myself included, weeping in empathy and spirit.


Bob:

A lot has been made of Pixar’s latest film being the first of its slate to centre around a female protagonist. A great deal has also been written about how stunning it looks (even in comparison to the rest of its brethren) and about all the new proprietary technology that had to be invented just in order to render out all the graphics. All true. In the wake of its initial screenings, there has also been a fair amount of chatter about how the story is a bit of a letdown, somewhat generic and how the film is simply ordinary. That, I must say, is a load of shite.

Perhaps it’s just a wee bit of my Scottish heritage getting its back up, but I thought the film a wonderful mix of adventure, magical fantasy and gentle humor all of which was in service to the set of themes of the story – the main one being clearly spelled out: you can control your own fate, if you’re brave enough to try. However it wraps this common sage advice into a mother\daughter story that not only shows the push-pull of a parent-child relationship where each is far more similar to the other than they would ever care to admit, but also highlights the importance of real communication. Set in the Scottish Highlands, Queen Elinor has been raising Merida to take on duties of a princess and to eventually marry one of the first born sons of one of the leaders of the other clans. Her father has helped to bring peace to the previously warring clans and the selection of the proper suitor for Merida is one of the ceremonial acts that keeps the clans together. If you’ve seen a single image of the film, you’ll already know that these plans do not coincide with Merida’s, but neither mother nor daughter will give an inch since they never really listen to the other. This sets up Merida’s big act of rebellion at the archery contest where the young men try to win her hand. When that fails to get her point across, she takes more drastic measures.

It’s certainly the act of a petulant know-it-all child, but the character of Merida has already been given enough time with us that we can’t help but forgive the act. It helps that she’s voiced by Kelly MacDonald, who easily manages the range of emotions of a teenager but can also handle the tough authoritative voice of a young woman (and a single instance of “Shut it!” that even quieted down several of the more talkative youngsters in the audience). Though Billy Connolly and Emma Thompson are also terrific as her parents, MacDonald is fantastic as she has the bear’s share of the work and her voice really fits those ravishing locks. That flaming orange hair is certainly the signature of the film, but its landscapes, lighting and detail are all equally impressive. If it’s too obvious to state that a Pixar film looks gorgeous, it doesn’t take away from the fact that it really does. I should also address the 3D – it’s totally unnecessary, but also one of the best examples I’ve seen of using the medium to provide depth of space. And it didn’t even give me a headache…

As a whole the film has much more of an old style Disney feel in its approach to story as well as humour. Much of the humor in the film has been seen before – typical animated facial reactions and such – and comes less from the comedic abilities of its voice cast and more from character and physical action. As the story goes on and the characters grow fuller, it feels fresher. And so does the approach towards the film’s messages. Brave manages to stretch the several different themes it has (responsibility for one’s own actions and fate, finding bravery within you, communication) to bring forward a very contemporary take on our specie’s ability to talk over each other. Brave posits that to really understand the other side of an argument or point of view, you must swallow your pride and the natural human desire to feel superior. To truly listen is to accept that you might be able to learn something new, alter an opinion or even admit that you might be capable of being wrong. It’s not that difficult to do – maybe just a little scary the first time you try it.


Marina:

Brave seems like it was made for me: it looks gorgeous, it sounds fantastic, it’s a story of strong women and finding your way in the world, realising that being brave is something that comes from within and that sometimes, there are things worth fighting for, even if you’re fighting against tradition. But a part of this story doesn’t sit right with me and it’s the fairy tale aspect which unfolds in the film’s second half as Merida and her mother try to sort through the pickle Merida has created.

Brave’s second half feels like another movie. It’s a little too goofy and though the emotional connection between the two women grows, the story itself lost me and as Merida and mom try to sort through the witch’s spell, I found myself taken in with the visuals: the gorgeous way Merida’s hair looks real, shinning and glowing with different shades of red, the way the forest looked real in places with a sheen to the grasses and moss that hinted at dew, the movement of both Merida’s horse and her mom, both of which you can almost see the muscles contracting underneath hair and fur…it’s a marvel but when I spent more time checking out the visuals than caring for the story, there’s a problem.

Surprisingly, there was still a huge wave of emotion that hit me as the second sun rises and the curse seems to be permanent. As Merida and her mother share their moment at the centre of the circle henge, I did get a little teary eyed.

I may not have loved every moment of Brave but I did love enough of it that it resonated with me on an emotional level and brought up memories of being young and rebellious and trying to figure out what I wanted to do, even if it went against what my mother wanted. Few good films succeed in eliciting that sort of response and the fact that a movie I only half like manages that feat is something to me seen.


Andrew:

Nothing within Brave is completely horrible (outside of the music), but it’s completely forgettable and frankly a little boring. The humor almost never lands, the characters are uninteresting, the storyline is one that’s been told a million times over and to top it off the musical choices alone were enough to have me almost request that theaters install barf bags on the seat backs.

Visually it’s not all that immersive (I did not see the “3D experience”). For one thing, Pixar has never done humans particularly well; they always look like fat mannequins. In Brave, a couple of the caricature types were mildly interesting, but mostly, everyone in this movie is generally just pretty ugly. Sure, I could watch that beautiful red hair bounce around all day, but hell, even the animation from other studios trumps Brave in imagination and cinematogrpahy (see How to Train Your Dragon). On the ladder of previous Pixar studio films, Brave hangs squarely on the lower-most rung. It’s isn’t that the film is not good looking, it’s just disappointing compared to Pixar’s output of years past (see Ratatouille and Cars).

Besides how generic and homely the characters look, is their unimaginative behavior and dialogue. Slapstick is resorted to in most cases throughout the film and just watching a giant bear knock over tables and tapestries for 20 minutes doesn’t quite cut it with me.

I don’t have much to say as mostly this was one long ho-hum for the most part. A chuckle here, a check of the watch there and the movie was over. I don’t necessarily hold Pixar to higher standards; I saw the trailer and knew essentially what I was getting into. But I do expect some level of creativity and imagination and it’s hard to see much of either in Brave. It’s looking more and more like Pixar peaked with Toy Story 3 and it’s all downhill from here.


Ryan McNeil (The Matinee):

Being independent and free-spirited is a wonderful thing…but one must always remember that there is no magic spell that will make everything better. Everything comes at a cost.

Were I a betting man, I would wager that a lot of adults will get midway into Brave and find themselves with an antsy feeling…as if they were part of something they hadn’t signed on for. That doesn’t mean that what they’ve been signed on for isn’t something special.

We’ve arrived in an age where children aren’t being told faery tales anymore. Children are getting cinematic tripe piled on their plate with the side of celebrity voices…fleets of parrots and magical garden gnomes are put in front of them not to spark their imagination, but merely to distract them. I can’t help but feel that they are getting short-changed. Where a generation or two ago, we still raised our children on the adventures of Alice in Wonderland or Peter Pan, it’s as if we don’t think this generation of children deserve the same sorts of grand ideas. Essentially, children aren’t being told faery tales anymore because we have stopped writing them.

Then along comes Pixar.

What the people at Pixar have done with Brave is create something with great vision. They could have taken the low road, filled the script with winking references to modern pop culture and stacked it with ‘A-List’ celebrities. It would have been gobbled up by the mass market, but likely forgotten in the growing pile of like-products…a pile that’s growing so fast that WALL-E can’t cube it up fast enough. Instead, Pixar took the high road: they dared to tell a story with a moral, they created a lush beautiful world where magic still exists. We usually take the low road, and Pixar takes the high road, yet they get to Scotland before us.

Merida’s tale is one that has a lot of lessons to be learned. The easy take-a-way is that daughters shouldn’t be afraid to speak up. There’s long been the stigma attached to faery tales that so many of them send the curious message of princesses who sit back and wait for a prince to come along and rescue them (some literally needing to be awaken by a kiss). Merida would never be caught dead in such a story. She wants to run, she wants to climb, she wants to shoot her arrows and enjoy what her splendid country has to offer. One can’t help but admire a story that teaches little girls to seize the day instead of waiting for the day to be handed to them.

Where the story really earns its stripes, is in a detail I don’t fully want to give away (because the marketing never did). While I won’t reveal the detail, I will note that the lesson it teaches Merida (and the audience), is that it is all well and good for our daughters and sons to want…but a whole other thing for them to take without regard for consequences. For ages, children have believed that they knew better than their parents, that they weren’t understood. If their mothers and fathers weren’t going to give in to their wants, then a kid would just shrug and do it anyway. The sad truth is this cuts deep for a parent, and sometimes can have a wider ripple effect than the child realizes.

What Pixar wants kids to understand, is that while it is important to be free-spirited, one must also be respectful to those that love them. Basically, that there is a very fine line between empowered and entitled.

Watching this lesson unfurl in this fable would have been enough. Pixar wraps it in a lush, green, rolling countryside, dots it with a plucky celtic score, and serves it up with that boisterous shock of red hair that continually draws your eye to Merida. They might be forsaking the grown-ups wanting pop culture fodder, but are placing their bets on the children who will cling tight to the film and pass it on to their children. It might not be what mass audiences wanted, but Pixar has made a bold play with Brave.

They have chosen to evoke the spirit of Walt Disney himself and bring a faery tale to life: In choosing to write a faery tale of their own, they might have even one-upped Walt himself.


Consensus:
Running quite the spectrum here folks. Take from Brave what you will. A boring kids tale filled with tired tropes and safe humor or a quality leap for a heroine of epic proportions learning the difficult way about family and fate? Or is it somewhere in the middle ground with exciting characters and immersive visuals but a bit lackluster in storytelling? No matter where you land on this particular battle ground, it should make for interesting conversation. Go forth and converse.

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Jericho Slim
Guest

Does Row3 staff opinion on Brave break down to parents vs. non-parents?

Kurt Halfyard
Admin

Marina and Andrew are not.

Bob and I are parents. (Bob has a 12 year old boy, I have a 9 year old boy and a 7 year old girl.)

Fyi, here are my kids talking BRAVE:

Andrew James
Admin

Maybe. But I recognize kids may like this just by getting off on watching a bear crash into pots for 15 minutes. And then watching a fat maid do the same thing. And then watching a bear do it again. Then watching three kids steal cake over and over again. That stuff is cute. Like a “Tom and Jerry” cartoon.

Marina Antunes
Admin

That’s a good point. I also agree with Andrew – I went to a matinee screening and the bits the kids laughed at were the really broad comedic moments. I didn’t hate it but I didn’t expect the bear story line and it really took me out of the story.

Best part of the movie: Wreck-It Ralph trailer. Hadn’t seen it yet and I laughed uncontrollably.

Andrew James
Admin

“Best part of the movie: Wreck-It Ralph trailer. Hadn’t seen it yet and I laughed uncontrollably.”

THIS.

Goon
Guest

When you see all the characters in a packed theater the crowd get very talky.

Matt Gamble
Guest

Parents shouldn’t be allowed to review kid’s movies. They lose all frame of reference and objectivity. I’m pretty sure it is because diaper fumes kill brain cells.

Bob Turnbull
Admin

I’ll be the first to admit I lose all objectivity sometimes (and gladly so), but my comments about “Brave” stand outside of being a brain-damaged parent. Here’s a thought – try actually addressing what Kurt and I said and not what you want to think we said. Then we could have a conversation. Or is that really too much to ask for?

I can accept some of the criticism towards the film and I can’t really tell Andrew and Marina they are wrong for not finding it as engaging as I did. But I can’t help feel that different standards are being applied: “Brave” is getting knocked for “safe” humour, but Wreck-It-Ralph gets a pass? Don’t get me wrong, Wreck-It looks a whole helluva lot better than I ever would have guessed, but the trailer doesn’t exactly break new ground in comedy. It uses well-known pop cultural touch points as its source of humour (at least within that 2 minutes). “Brave”, though it certainly relies on some standard slapstick conventions (some of which worked for me, and some of which didn’t), allowed other bits of humour to come from the characters themselves.

Andrew James
Admin

Wreck it Ralph is an interesting concept. Once the trailer got moving I agree it wasn’t exactly brilliant, but I loved the idea that villains in video games are real and they have support groups and sometimes want to reform. I remember there was a similar scene in Toy Story 3.

As for Brave. I can’t really address any of your points because I honestly feel they’re coming from a different world. The bond between daughter and mother felt SO used. Lazy doesn’t even begin to describe how boring that storyline is. I mean Ratatouille is essentially the same thing but with Father/Son. Just because it’s women doesn’t make it interesting. Turning a human into an animal isn’t clever or funny; it’s just boring.

“As the story goes on and the characters grow fuller, it feels fresher. And so does the approach towards the film’s messages.”

Like I just don’t know how to respond to this other than, “No, no it doesn’t.”

I’d be curious what the people of Scotland think of this movie. It seemed to take the most obvious Scots jokes and throw them in there. Whoever hired the musical director should be shot as well. I gotta go to work now. More on this later.

Goon
Guest

“The bond between daughter and mother felt SO used.”

The father/son strain has been done to death everywhere. Maybe for some people the mother/daughter one is still fresh, and maybe for some of us we just see the same shit, but replace “be a man!” with “be a lady!”. But really I can ask, what is going on in Brave that people saw this awesome mother/daughter bond, what emotional beats are being hit that made this work? I don’t get it.

I mean, is it any deeper than the mother/daughter lessons of Freaky Friday? It doesn’t need to be really, but it feels like some are acting like it is… and I don’t get it.

In Dragon though, the focus is ‘boy and his pet’ and the father/son stuff is really a side plot that gets resolved as a result of the main storyline. In here it’s the whole thing.

Kurt
Guest

An argument could be made that Elinor is almost the main character here. She is fairly nuanced, her final arc, her silencing, and forced to listen, while also somewhat getting her way is exceptionally compelling to me.

*SPOILERS*

Her hair down, sweaty recovery at the end has real resonance for me, because she loses a fair bit of control and has to act instead of speak (ie. Bear-fighting) for her offspring. That also resonates.

Matt Gamble
Guest

A Mama Grizzly defending her cub resonated with you? I had no idea you had so much in common with Sarah Palin, Kurt.

Kurt
Guest

Snipe if you will. Beyond the baiting level quip, there is no similarities, so I’ll leave you to your loud sighs and trivial dismissals.

The twin realization from all the non-communication between mother and daughter is a mutual acceptance of competence where they each are in life. (Defending her daughter, Feeding her mother, or at least teaching her some outdoorsy skills)

It’s echoed in the compromise of ‘holding the kingdom together’ and the ‘well tradition isn’t ironclad…’ that is the wider result from the resolution of the Elinor/Merida feud. The recognition that the female side of a community has equally weighted repercussions to the male side, just different shadings is well handled in Brave. If you choose to see the film as a “You Betcha” catch-phrase, then that’s your baggage, Gamble, not mine.

Goon
Guest

“An argument could be made that Elinor is almost the main character here.”

I didn’t hate the movie. A statement like this, if true, makes me start to hate the movie.

Goon
Guest

But yes, this is trivial and baity.

I think we didn’t see enough to actually truly chew on to bother to raise the discourse. Another case of speaking Chinese to each other.

I’ll make an attempt though:
“Her hair down, sweaty recovery at the end has real resonance for me, because she loses a fair bit of control and has to act instead of speak (ie. Bear-fighting) for her offspring. That also resonates.”

See and all I can think of are all the goofy mannerisms and bear-frozen-against-the-wall gags.. and the fight itself, well I think by that point the crappy humor and lack of interest in Elinor from the get-go made me not really care. Also, this is the climax. What is happening and being built along the way that the payoff becomes emotional? Is it the montage of fishing? Because it’s the goofy stuff… it’s still Chinese to me. I don’t see nuance, I see lack of character development and generic writing so they can stuff some more gags in.

Which would not be an issue if the gags were any good.

Matt
Guest

Except their is no communication between the females, at any point in the film. The only way the film resolves the feud is through the narrator telling the audience it ended. And it does that because the film had painted itself into a corner and had no way to get out of it, so it resolved it the only way it knew how, but leaping forward in time to a time when the issue had been resolved. How convenient.

Also, I like how you (Kurt) are allowed to take whatever flimsy theme you want (Iron Man ripping off Robocop, Scott Pilgrim all happening in his mind and we could go on) but the moment someone else tries to do the same you immediately try to bull rush them into submission. Brave without a doubt defends traditional marriage, and forwards the Disney notion that women only care about getting married, that that is their single greatest moment in their lives. On top of that, you have a spoiled brat of a daughter and a frigid cunt of a mother arguing about who she is going to marry and when and that is what drives the narrative. Wow, compelling mother/daughter stuff that truly pushes boundaries. Then you toss in a hokey plot twist of turning the mother into a bear? Good grief. This is fucking Freaky Friday. Only instead of it being divorce it is marriage. But well, as with pretty much every Disney movie, the ends justify the means. But hey, Halfyard cried so things like a complete narrative, developed characters, pacing, and humor aimed at anyone over the age of 4 can just fuck off.

Kurt
Guest

Wow Matt. We are on such opposite ends of the divide here. Marriage is in the movie to show that it is not the be all end all thing, that the Daughter has an exterior life to being prepared. But it also isn’t so all or nothing to throw out marriage (of Royalty) out of the equation.

Brave also offers the dynamic that Elinor is actually running the day to day aspects of the entire kingdom, as well as grooming her daughter to do so. The men are more for keeping invaders at bay and hunting and such. The actual minutiae of running the kingdom is done by the women here. You even see the 3 lords constantly defer to Elinor in these matters.

The Marriage is Important to holding the kingdom together, but the woman’s role is equal and necessary, not just as an act of marriage and childbirth.

Sure I could do without some of the slapstick and goofy Scot-stereotypes in the film. It’s not perfect, but that doesn’t change the fact that there are things going on here beyond Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty.

I understand that Goon, Matt, Andrew are going from the Glass Is Half Empty perspective (or in some cases, the Glass is Empty) and that Bob, Ryan and myself are going from the Glass is Half Full. Many Pixar films have elements that are kind of chucked aside by those who love the film (The cutesy girl crap in Monsters Inc., the weak fanboy villain in Incredibles, the unnecessary slapstick-gags and French caricatures in Ratatouille) and I’m certainly willing to overlook the ‘Clumsy Bear and Plot Device Witch’ in Brave for how the film resonated with me. Of course I’d like to see PIXAR go the full-Ghilbli and give us an Epic along the lines of Nausicaa or Mononoke, but as their hybrid ‘deep’ but also ‘fun’ philosophy doesn’t look like its changing any time soon, I’m more than happy to take what is actually kinda great out of their films when they speak to me.

Obviously your mileage varies. I get a lot more emotional depth than Freaky Friday. I’ve not seen Brother Bear, but the craft side of things on that film is offputtingly straight to DVD.

Andrew James
Admin

And we sort of just come back to the differences in the WAY we watch movies. At least Kurt/Andrew dynamic. Kurt looks for deeper meaning and metaphorical nuance in his films and everything else is just icing on the cake. Me? I take the message as secondary (because usually it is generally so bluntly obvious) and I like all the details that get me that message much more interesting. I look for visual details, the humor want to work on me. I’ll mention it in the Cinecast, but at the end of the day, I want to be entertained. BRAVE is just NOT entertaining.

Goon
Guest

“but the craft side of things on that film is offputtingly straight to DVD.”

Havent seen it but have heard good things, and it was nominated for Best Animated Feature in its year and was popular enough to spawn a sequel.. which was straight to DVD.

Matt Gamble
Guest

Brother Bear was the first animated film to play with aspect ratios as a means of story telling. On top of that, they alter the animation style mid-way through the film as well, going from a realistic style filmed in a Flat aspect ration, to a Scope aspect ratio with a more dreamlike and fantastical style of animation. Its ambituious as fuck and way ahead of the curve in terms of the “craft” of the film.

As for the women running the kingdom, sure, that aspect is there but it always takes a back seat to the marriage. The marriage and the wedding are what is important, not running the country. So even when the film gives the woman an important role, it still drags them down with the take that she still only cares about the wedding date. Plus, the kingdom seems to run itself just fine with the Queen running around as a bear, in fact, she’s so goddamn important to running everything that no one notices her absence for two days. But hey, that can be quickly written off as the entire male gender being functionally retarded. Wheeee, the messages Brave is passing along to children are fantastic! So deep! So moving! So backwards!

Bob Turnbull
Admin

“Like I just don’t know how to respond to this other than, “No, no it doesn’t.””

Heh, well, I suppose I could just copy that same sentence as a response to it, but we’ll be in circles forever…The characters grew on me, so the humour did too. My point about the approach towards the message becoming fresher was that it expanded beyond just the basic theme that was spelled out (you determine your fate if you are brave enough to do so) into a general one about being brave enough to really listen to arguments counter to your own. I suppose when a film syncs up with your own feelings, you can’t help but be biased towards it.

What I definitely don’t agree with is your statement that the Mother/Daughter relationship was “SO used” and that “Turning a human into an animal isn’t clever or funny; it’s just boring.”. Does that mean that any story using those concepts can’t be good? Should we also throw away “Boy meets Girl” while we’re at it? If you don’t like the film that’s fine, but shouldn’t the criticism be aimed at the execution of the concept instead of the concept itself?

As for the music, that probably was one of the weaker parts of the film…It didn’t annoy me (except for sounding a bit too Irish for a movie based in Scotland), but it wasn’t overly interesting or original in how it was used.

Goon
Guest

The music wasn’t Guardians of Ga’hoole level stops-the-movie-in-its-tracks bad, but its’ baaaaaaaaaaaad.

Andrew James
Admin

It’s beyond bad. When that first song kicked in I pretty much immediately hated the movie. Once it sunk to that level it would have had to REALLY impress me to dig out of that hole. It was eye rollingly terrible. It might (MIGHT) have worked it’s way out of that hole but then they placed at least two more songs from that same artist and the movie absolutely crumbled under the horribleness.

Andrew James
Admin

Sure I can take aim at the execution of the concept as well. How do we turn the mother into a bear? She meets a witch for about 5 minutes in the woods and for seemingly no reason gives her a cake that will turn her mom into a bear. I get it’s supposed to be fate kind of guiding her and teaching her a life lesson (the hard way), but it just felt lazy. It’s just the quickest and easiest way to get something to happen quickly. And like Goon said, it wouldn’t be so bad if the gag worked (i.e. if the character was fun or interesting) but it doesn’t. The witch tries to be comical by swiping at the talking bird and misspeaking a couple of times and I just found it tedious.

I also don’t see all this non-verbal communication you guys are talking about that is so heartfelt. Admittedly the salmon-catching scene is quite nice (and it looks great), but I don’t remember much outside of that. The rest of the interaction between them is running from threats (the husband, the other bear, the army of guys, etc.) or trying to find the witch. The moment of realization between them is when they’re playing charades in front of the three suitors. It plays like a gimmick to me.

And no, tropes in film are fine. I don’t really have a problem with the mom being turned into a bear if it was fun, or better yet clever, in any way. And that’s the biggest let down I suppose – not that it was outright horrible, just that it was outright unimaginative. Finding Nemo is essentially a “from here to there” story, but all of the characters are super funny or adorable at first sight. Or there are clever ideas of giving marine life socially human qualities.

Kurt
Guest

Why does superman have powers? Oh, because of our Yellow Sun.

The kingdom is established that there are wiley magical things out in the wildnerness. Sometimes you have to accept it as the premise for the film. I understand that it is jarring because all the Marketing materials didn’t really mention this part of the film. Upon multiple watches, you see that the film is almost half-over before we get to that part anyway, the rest is the family dynamic (funtime-goofy dad, got-it-together-but-stern Mum, hellion toddlers and competent but immature daughter)

Sure, I’d have liked the Witch to have more integration in the story than simply a plot device, but it’s not something that breaks the film, not by a longshot…But an understandable nit to pick if the film didn’t ‘capture’ you in the telling.

Andrew James
Admin

The Superman example is a terrible one. Superman is a fully fleshed out character. It doesn’t really matter to any of the stories (from the movies) as to whydoes matter what the crystal chamber in Superman II does – and the way it is explained and the consequences of him using it are clearly defined and why it’s important to his mother he does not do this – it’s a huge deal (not to mention it’s used again at the end for some more awesomeness). It does matter in Superman III that the kryptonite Rich Pryor gives him isn’t quite right and they make a big deal out of it – not to mention the Pryor presentation is a laugh riot. Brave has none of these elements. It’s a witch that just says, “Here, make your mom eat this cake that I just made out of God-knows-what. It’s okay, trust me.” And then Merida does. But we have no idea why the witch would do these things, why Merida would trust her with this and then the story never comes back to it – except for another gag with the three kids that is predictable, obvious and unfunny.

“Upon multiple watches, you see that the film is almost half-over before we get to that part anyway, the rest is the family dynamic (funtime-goofy dad, got-it-together-but-stern Mum, hellion toddlers and competent but immature daughter)”

So I rest my case. Half the film is sitcom-style family nonsense. The other half is tom-foolery of a juvenile nature.

Kurt Halfyard
Admin

You misinterpret me. This is the family dynamic to be untangled thru the lens of the mother daughter relationship, which is always at the heart of the matter. Sitcom style nonsense is in the eye of the beholder. I see a lot of truths on display here which transcend the easy dismissal of ‘sitcom stuff’ that you apply.

(Furthermore, the Witch could just as easily been a ‘wish’ or a magical pool of water, or a poisonous flower, or whatnot, it’s not a key part of the story, merely a vehicle to get to the heart of what the movie is about. Sure I’d have like to have seen it done better, but it’s far from a dealbreaker.)

I’m not trying to change your opinion, merely trying to articulate mine. In real-time…)

Matt Gamble
Guest

Superman came from John Carter and the idea that a normal person in the right envioronment can do truly great things. On top of that, it has the whole Jewish undercurrent as well. Both of which are deeper and more fleshed out than anything in Brave.

Andrew James
Admin

And to top everything off, aside from some details here and there, the movie just doesn’t look that good. At least compared to other animation of recent years.

Kurt Halfyard
Admin

Uh. WRONG.

Andrew James
Admin

Uh. No I’m not. Her hair looks great. The Salmon-catching scene is great. The bear fight looks kinda cool. Everything else is dark and/or drab.

The inside of the castle is completely grey/washed-out/boring. Everything that happens outside happens at night or in a “mystical” location so that everything is kind of grayed out. Everything in each scene is drawn so that your attention is drawn to her hair. And her hair is awesome, but not enough to hang a film on.

I’m not saying it looks terrible. Clearly it doesn’t. But it’s certainly nothing special. Compared to Ratatouille or even Cars (a film that is six years old now)? Not even close. I’d argue that despite Nemo taking place mostly with an all-blue background, it looks much brighter, snappier, detailed and colorful than at almost any point in Brave.

If this were a Dreamworks picture, everyone would be saying how it doesn’t look as good as a Pixar film.

Bob Turnbull
Admin

Andrew, did you see in 3D? And have you seen other Pixar films in 3D? I still thought it looked great and the 3D was nicely done (though not overly useful), but I would’ve much preferred to have seen it in the brighter 2D.

I’d have to see it again, but I seem to remember there was lots of detail.

Andrew James
Admin

I saw the 2D version. I saw Toy Story 3 in 3D and it was my favorite movie of the year. I don’t think glasses or no glasses is the problem with Brave. I just think it isn’t not a very interesting locale for animation.

Kurt Halfyard
Admin

Andrew is certifiably insane. This movie is stunningly gorgeous, and a great setting for CGI animation.

Jericho Slim
Guest

I have to agree with Kurt and Bob that the animation and settings were fantastic, but most animation for the last few years have been fantastic, so it doesn’t stand out.

I really don’t know how much higher the bar can be pushed. After Rango and Train Your Dragon and Panda 2 (and others), how much better looking can you get?

Andrew James
Admin

If you ever watch BRAVE again, take a closer look at the bare fingers and arms on the characters. It is like they forgot to finish. I’m not being hyperbolic or exaggerating when I say they look like mannequins.

And I’m not asking it get more “real” looking. I’m asking for it to be gorgeous to look at visually. I just didn’t think any of the locales in Brave were very interesting or spectacular. I know I’m shit on around here for liking Cars, but even the haters gotta reco’nize there are a number of “ooh, aah” moments in that film visually – not to mention hoardes of clever details going on in the background. Brave never had any of that for me – other than the aforementioned salmon scene. I also don’t think the characters are cool to look at. They look like animated humans, which always kind of suck. Even the bear is kind of a boring character. The “evil” bear is kind of interesting looking, but at that point I didn’t care.

Kurt Halfyard
Admin

Well, the animators are simply showing off in Brave when Merida rock-climbs that pillar, and the mist from the waterfall slowly dampens her hair. It’s a wow moment.

Matt Gamble
Guest

Brave doesn’t come close to touching Rango. Brave far too often uses old cell style Disney animation for the humans and especially the Mama Grizzly. It looks cheap and hap-hazard.

Kurt
Guest

Pixar has always been at its best when their films are viewed through a parenting lens. They make ‘family morality tales’ for the most part:

Finding Nemo is almost purely made for parents, tackling the ‘bubble-wrapping’ thing going on in my generation (i.e. anyone having kids after the 1990s)

The Incredibles has the “If everyone is special, than no one is special” thing coupled with the whole family pitching in their skill sets instead of every one working in a vacuum”

Ratatouille has Linguini’s DNA as a direct plot point, as well as the family dynamic of the Rats, and the message of ‘see and experience the marvels of the wider world’ is a wonderful message (and part of the job description) for parents (IMO)

The Child/Toy relationship in the film (particluarly ToyStory2) as well as the ‘family dynamics’ between the toys (Well, Buzz / Woody and to a degree, Jessie) is what makes the Toy Story films so great.

Up probably contains perhaps the best 4 minutes of any Pixar, and it centers around a massive ‘parenting’ disappointment (i.e. cannot biologically have children, despite a strong desire to have them)

WallE isn’t really about parenting, but does have a stewardship for art and culture, not too far off Ratatouille, a solid message for children, one that should be imparted by their parents and teachers.

I cannot comment on A Bugs Life because I’ve not seen the film in more than a decade.

Likewise Cars and Cars 2 – the anti-Pixars go for gags first, and the ‘slow down’ spirit-rather-than-glory message lacks the nuance of The Incredibles.

Goon
Guest

“Pixar has always been at its best when their films are viewed through a parenting lens.”

Are you suggesting this is a uniquely Pixar thing? How to Train Your Dragon, Kung Fu Panda, etc, also find this format. Most of the best animated films have some stretchable sense of family.

Kurt Halfyard
Admin

I agree Goon, I wasn’t implying that — Pixar are certainly not the only ones who do this. (Bambi, for instance, Pinocchio, etc.) I was not implying that. I’m saying that BRAVE is well within Pixar’s wheelhouse as their best films do this.

I want to further underscore the parenting angle when people are saying they just ‘did a Disney Princess movie.’ A generic story and not “Pixar-esuque” or whatever.

I’ll go one further and say that while Disney Princess film’s almost NEVER have the mother in the film (Either the mother (or parents) are fully absent, or the Mother is Killed in the first reel).

That the Mother in BRAVE is not only present, but also a very, very significant player in the story, well that is something.

For the Record:

Disney:
Snow White – Orphan;
Bambi – mother shot;
Jungle Book – orphan;
Fox & the Hound – Fox’s Mother shot;
Lady & the Tramp – Homeless Tramp;
Cinderella – orphan;
Little Mermaid – No mother;
Beauty & the Beast – No mother;
Peter Pan – orphan (albeit, Wendy has parents);
Pinocchio – no mother (albeit intrinsic to his creation, but still…);
Lilo & Stitch – orphans

Pixar:
Finding Nemo – Mother killed;
Up – Wife not in film outside of opening reel and cannot have children;
Ratatouille – No Mother

Matt Gamble
Guest

Sure, but plenty of animated films have mother’s as well in all sorts of forms in the story.

Secret of Nimh
Iron Giant
101 Dalmations
Mars Needs Moms
My Neighbor Totoro
Spirited Away
Lion King
The Incredibles
Persepolis
Shrek
Fantastic Mr Fox

Disney has a general lack of Mother’s because they borrow their stories from old mythologies that often used that device. Its an old story telling method to put a hint of danger in and remove a veil of protection, and Pixar shouldn’t be commended for doing something that has also been done for generations, which is including mothers (or father’s) in the story.

It can also be argued, and I will, that including a father figure who clearly is incapable of doing just about everything, as well as a mother who is a harpish shrew, is hardly pushing any boundaries, let alone breaking from precident. Point of fact, its far more in line with standard Disney fare to the point of being in near lock step.

Bob Turnbull
Admin

Yeah true, I guess the father is “incapable of doing just about everything” – except of course for initially bringing the clans together, bringing peace to the region and garnering the position of King. He also recognizes the “warrior” side of Merida by giving her the bow and arrow when she was a young girl. Oh and he survives a monstrous bear attack. But yeah, apart from that…

I somewhat see your point about the mother – she is absolutely focused only on her daughter’s duties and won’t listen to reason. However, I found that the way they did it, made me see her as a strong woman who can strike fear in the hearts of other clan leaders and believes in the sacrifice that she and her daughter should make. A slave to tradition and unreasonable? Sure, you bet she’s flawed. Harpy shrew? Not from my point of view.

Kurt Halfyard
Admin

Heh. This reminds me a lot of the dynamic between Brian Blessed’s CAESAR in “I, Claudius” – competent as a leader outside the palace but clueless as to what is going on at home. Albeit, his wife, Livia is far more ‘pure-evil’ in that series than Elinor.

Matt Gamble
Guest

Outside of showing that people like partying with him, he is shown to be completely clueless at how to run, let alone form, a kingdom.

Also, I don’t think his fostering her “hunter” spirit really disproves my point either, as he is the wedge that is driven between the mother and daughter, and once that occurs he is completely eliminated from dealing with the situation. He’s completely neutered in all aspects outside of carousing, hardly a good role model for young boys. But then, I guess what she wants is to have someone like her father, who will let her do whatever she wants whenever she wants, you know, like her mother does.

But if you want to hang your hat on the fact he didn’t get eaten by bear, oh wait, that he didn’t get entirely eaten by a bear, then I guess you got me.

Goon
Guest

“Outside of showing that people like partying with him, he is shown to be completely clueless at how to run, let alone form, a kingdom.”

When they can’t notice a bear hanging out in their own castle with hundreds of people in attendance in the same room, it’s a surprise bears aren’t eating them in their sleep.

Andrew James
Admin

Well to be fair, it’s a bear with human level intelligence.

Matt Gamble
Guest

Its also why they are called family films as it is hardly only relegated to the realm of animation.

Kurt Halfyard
Admin

I think we did this on a cinecast episode way back when, but for the record, this is more or less my order-of-favourite in terms of Pixar films, at this moment…

–The ones I Love:
1. Ratatouille
2. The Incredibles
3. Brave
4. WallE
5. Monsters Inc.
–Those I like A LOT:
6. Finding Nemo
7. Toy Story 2
8. Toy Story 3
9. Up
–Those I’m ambivalent about:
10. Toy Story
11. A Bug’s Life
—The Two I Don’t Like:
12. Cars
13. Cars 2 (OK, OK, I’ve not actually seen it…but uggh)

Andrew James
Admin

I bet I would love this movie if it was live-action and they took out the dopey, slap-stick comedy. Make the triplets a little more sinister and this would be a pretty rad, medieval story.

Kurt Halfyard
Admin

Nobody has mentioned the awesomeness of the leading ladies voice. I will always think of Kelly MacDonald’s introduction to me in this scene:

http://www.rowthree.com/2008/01/13/finite-focus-kelly-kelly-kelly-trainspotting/

Kurt
Guest

Interesting WIRED article – http://www.wired.com/geekdad/2012/06/brave-is-bad-storytelling/ – that makes a serious complaint about Brave being ‘Anti-Male’ for making all the Scots unthinking doofuses (doofi?)… which I completely disagree with…

People are seriously over-reacting to this film and missing the interplay between parents/children that actually IS on display.

I do love this response, which more or less succinctly articulates my feelings on the film:

“[…]If you don’t think these sterotypes still exist, go to a mall, or a high school football game, or anywhere else where families can be seen together. You have over achieving “soccer moms” or “corporate moms” who have daughters who have alienated themselves from them by either burying themselves in their own achievements or resorting to the metal/goth crowd simply to avoid having anything in common. You have fathers who are so into sports, or the possiblities they want for their kids, or their own hobbies (including some GeekDads), that they are so out of touch that they don’t know their kids want to watch Sesame Street instead of Clone Wars. I think that Brave opens up a chance for dialogue between grown ups (who care) and kids. A chance to discuss what they like and didn’t like between different characters… and maybe, just maybe, parents might hear their kids tell them a way they might improve themselves.” – Eric Stanley

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